Under ObamaCare, Misery Loves Companies
Before Cyber Monday, it was Cyber Saturday for HealthCare.gov, as the President's deadline for fixing the website came and went without most of the improvements he promised. Of the "hundreds of problems" Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted to, many remain. According to insiders, a full 10% of the portal is still completely dysfunctional or worse, unfinished, leaving tens of thousands of consumers dangling without the insurance they were promised.
And while countless Americans wait for coverage in an online no man's land, the pain has been particularly acute for small businesses. What most people don't realize is that these smaller companies (less than 50 employees) have a separate track on the exchanges to help "ease costs" (or so the administration claimed). Twice, the White House has postponed the launch of the small business pool on HealthCare.gov -- throwing the managers of these smaller operations into complete chaos as they try to make hiring and planning decisions for the upcoming year. Then, on Wednesday, while most Americans were busy stuffing their turkeys, the Obama administration was serving up another delay -- this time for the entire small business exchange. HHS, which tried to bury the news under a mound of holiday trimmings, let it slip that the small business side of the website won't be ready for another year.
Unfortunately for these entrepreneurs, who were already struggling under the weight of ObamaCare, this announcement only adds to the uncertainty. Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), just one of the outraged members, blasted the administration for putting the pinch on such an important segment of the economy. "In the midst of the angst... that small business and Americans feel about ObamaCare, today's news of yet another last minute delay is just more proof that the law is unworkable and bad for small businesses." Graves went on to rage against the government's double standard. "If small firms failed to provide services this frequently," he said, "they would be fired."
Of course, like the administration's other "delays," this decision was just as illegal -- and just as politically motivated. Once again, the President acted out of complete lawlessness, having no authority to postpone the law's small business component until (surprise, surprise) after voters head to the polls next November.
In the meantime, small business owners across the country are in a bind, forced to wait until (not-so-coincidentally) after those midterm elections to find out how high their health care premiums will be. Jody Manor, owner of the Bittersweet Catering Café, told reporters, "[The website's explanation] is all very confusing, and it didn't answer my main question -- how much is it all going to cost?" She, like most entrepreneurs, is just trying to run a business in a tough economy, and instead, they're being caught up in a complicated web of paperwork and government bureaucracy. If small businesses didn't know how low they were on the administration's priority list, they do now.
And as Manor and others are realizing, the delay will cost them a lot more than time. Most companies were banking on the IRS's tax credit for small businesses that offer health insurance. Starting next year, the Washington Post points out, the credit is only available to "firms" that purchase plans through the new exchange -- so if owners don't find a plan through HealthCare.gov (which the administration has made virtually impossible), they'll have to forfeit their tax relief to provide health care for their employees.
The President can talk about the website's progress all he wants, but no amount of technology can make up for the biggest ObamaCare errors of all: lost freedom, choices, consciences, and profits.
On Mandate, Voters Don't Poll Punches
The President's health care law made it to the Supreme Court once before -- but Americans are hoping for a different outcome this time around. While Congress sorts out the legislative chaos, it looks like the high court will be taking its second crack at ObamaCare to find out "if you like your freedom, can you keep it?" This time around, the justices will hear two of the most important religious liberty cases in American history as they relate to the President's abortion-contraception mandate. At issue is whether faith-loving Americans will have to pay for drugs or procedures they morally oppose as a price of doing business.
Of the more than 84 lawsuits filed against the mandate, the Supreme Court will hear the arguments of a pair of family-owned businesses: Hobby Lobby (with its 13,000 employees) and Conestoga Wood Specialties (with 950 employees). Together, they represent two of the hundreds of companies that have been ordered by the government to compromise their pro-life beliefs or face crippling (and potentially business-ending) fines.
Apparently, the Obama administration thinks it found some fine print in the U.S. Constitution that somehow disqualifies business owners from the First Amendment. As Alliance Defending Freedom's Matt Bowman wrote in today's Washington Times, "Imagine if we were to sit down with the Pilgrims at that first Thanksgiving table. It might surprise them to learn that their future government doesn't think they're entitled to religious freedom in their daily toil. Today, in the view of our government, anyway, freedom means keeping your faith -- as long as you keep it to yourself."
Just how panicked is the administration over the lawsuits' chances? In a desperate move, the White House's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett tried to smear Hobby Lobby as an enemy of women's health -- when in fact, no employee would have to go without the care they want. All Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Woods, and countless other business owners are asking is that the government keep employers out of it -- just as they had for dozens of years before ObamaCare. When Jarrett and other liberals rant about companies limiting access to contraception, they're deliberately misleading the public. Hobby Lobby and other owners can't take away women's health care that they never provided!
Meanwhile, if the White House is looking for allies, they'll have a tough time persuading the public. FRC, together with Alliance Defending Freedom, commissioned new polling on the abortion-contraception mandate and found that 59% of the country sides with Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood and others. Of likely voters, WPA Opinion Research found that almost sixty percent opposed the mandate requiring coverage of these so-called "preventative care services."
Obviously, this is a flawed mandate within a flawed law. And ironically, it may be doing more to kill health care coverage in the workplace than anything -- especially as more employers drop their health care plans rather than submit to the President's radical agenda. While the nation waits on the Supreme Court to decide these cases, Congress cannot afford to. It's time for the House and Senate to listen to the American people and protect conscience rights for everyone -- business owners included.
The Poverty of Nations...
Why do some societies thrive and others perpetually struggle? How can we alleviate poverty most effectively and help underdeveloped nations grow strong and self-sufficient? Dr. Wayne Grudem will try to answer these questions as he discusses his new book, The Poverty of Nations at an FRC policy lecture this Wednesday, December 4 at FRC headquarters (801 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C.). In this important new work, Dr. Grudem, a theologian, partners with economist Dr. Barry Asmus to find a "sustainable solution" to global poverty. At a time when there is so much need and also so much misinformation about how to help the poor, join us for a presentation that will bring clarity and practical help to people who so desperately need it. To register either to attend in person or via live webstream, click here.
** Days before the U.S. struck a deal with Iran, I was in Israel with a team of congressional members meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Read more about our discussion in a new column for the Christian Post.
*** Tune in to Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. (ET) to hear our discussion on the U.S. Iran nuclear deal, as well as the latest on ObamaCare.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.